France looks set to follow UK’s Huawei ban after all

A report has claimed that the French cyber-security authority has told operators it won’t renew the licenses for any Huawei kit they buy once they expire.

As the Reuters report says, this amounts to de facto ban on Huawei networking gear by 2028, since eight years seems to be the longest license awarded for such kit. The agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information (ANSSI) hasn’t commented one way or the other, but the report indicates it’s a done deal that just hasn’t been made public yet.

The French have been sending out very mixed messages on the matter of Huawei. Earlier this month the head of ANSSI said there won’t be a total ban on Huawei, a position that was confirmed only this week by the French government. But if refusing to grant licenses for the use of Huawei gear isn’t a total ban then it’s not clear what is.

This is very ominous for Huawei, which already seems to be having a bit of a panic attack about Europe, following the UK decision to compel the swap-out of its kit from the country’s networks by 2028. The EU is essentially run by Germany and France, so if one of them decides to ban Huawei then that makes it much more likely the whole bloc will follow suit.

The convoluted messaging is probably a product of the geopolitical balancing act all European countries are attempting, regarding the competing interests of China and the US. The UK did a good job of deflecting the blame for its decision to the US and, if this move becomes formalised, we would expect the French to try a similar trick. It would then be very surprising if Germany and the rest of the EU didn’t make similar announcements soon after.